The Fine Art of Reblogitation and Going Ape for Miss USA

Reblogitation (pronounced with a "j" sound for the "g", of course): the blogospheric phenomenon of reposting, and re-reposting, and re-re-reposting the information from the "apparent first" or "most snarky" report (or blog post) about a news item.

Mother-post: the "apparent first" or "most snarky" report of an item, that then provides "the facts" for most of the other stories about that item online (even those that don't reference or link to the mother-post).

The flurry of recent news about the question "Should evolution be taught in public schools?" that was asked of the recent crop of MIss USA contestants is fascinating for a number of different reasons. It is a wonderful attention getter for the contest, taking away the usual annual spotlight on the structural misogyny and objectification of the contest. (She says "misogyny", he says "philogyny"...let's call the whole thing off). And it is double-bonus fantastic that the winner is a self-proclaimed "huge science geek" -- hooray for Miss USA!

Interestingly, the reported number of contestants who believe evolution should be taught in schools has been bizarrely scattershot. The numbers are all over the place, even though everyone seems to be looking at the same video -- but one set of numbers seems to "dominate the web".

1) The ever influential Huffington Post's headline states that "only 2 contestants believe in evolution" (no need to post a link to Huffington, IMHO). This seems to be the most reblogitated number. The "2 of 51" actually appears to actually originate from a Think Progress post, which seems to be the real mother-post, but Huffington, seems to dominate in search results.) Although it appears the most online, this is clearly the most incorrect number.

2) Salon counts 24 in favor, 3 against, and 24 "equivocating to some degree".

3) A USA Today blogger says they "lost count of the correct number", then a couple of paragraphs later says 5 of 51 were "clearly for teaching evolution".

(I guess that shows that essay questions are harder to grade than true-false questions.)

A few other bloggers (e.g. here and here and here) have noticed and commented on the fact that the "only 2 contestants" information is incorrect, despite its massive reblogitation.

So what is the correct number? It will depend on your own interpretation of some of the more rambling answers in the video. But the "truth" is certainly not "2 of 51".

Perhaps next year the Miss USA contest will ask: "Do you believe global warming should be taught in public schools?"

More like this

On Dean's Corner, Jeffrey Toney reports the winners of Google's first Science Fair, and in all age groups the winner was a girl. They researched some very challenging and relevant topics: Lauren "studied the effect of different marinades on the level of potentially harmful carcinogens in grilled…
There's been a fair amount of talk about the Miss USA interview question "should evolution be taught in schools," and a fair amount of attention given to the answers provided by the contestants. For the most part, people have gotten mad at these women because they are both beautiful in a classic…
Remember when I invited readers to take a survey on the Miss USA evolution answers? And I was kinda vague about why I was doing it? At last it can be told, I was working on a guest blog post at Scientific American. You should read the whole thing, but here's the bit about how I used the survey…
Many of us have long noticed the truly awful quackery hosted at the Huffington Post, with acupuncturists, anti-vax fanatics, and general all-around kooks like Deepak Chopra given free rein. Now Salon has pointed out the obvious, with some depth. Have you wondered why the HuffPo is so bad on…

Why not "Do you think the germ theory of disease should be taught in school?" or "Do you believe the General Theory of Relativity should be taught in school?"

Each of them is equally fundamental to understanding the world around us and both undermine religious the Christian bible. Yet somehow only the theory of natural selection is subject to debate. I find it disheartening and embarrassing that we cannot as a civilization acknowledge and accept the most important tool for understanding life on Earth. The question should not be whether we should teach children evolution science, but how do we break the religious ignorance that keeps the majority of our citizens in the dark about it?

By ManOutOfTime (not verified) on 23 Jun 2011 #permalink

I would be very interested in the number of Miss America contestants who favored teaching the US constitution in public schools (political question positive control) as well as the Bohr model of the atom (sciencey question negative control).
Then I would be very interested in the differences in the reported answers for these numbers.

"Why not "Do you think the germ theory of disease should be taught in school?" or "Do you believe the General Theory of Relativity should be taught in school?".. ..Both undermine religious the Christian bible."

That's grammatically and factually wrong. Ha! Germ theory, undermine the bible. I love it.